As predicted by Powel (2000) claims for professional negligence are very common and their frequency is increasing due to the increasing demand for professionals’ services, specialisation, higher standards, intolerance of poor performance by societies and the increasing litigious nature of business.
The increasing expectations of the society are reflected in the changing attitude of the authorities and courts towards professionals when things go wrong. The changing attitude is fuelled by the unprecedented media coverage of failures of structures with human and environmental losses. This is particularly relevant to the tailings industry, which is marked by the recent dam failures in Canada, Brazil, Mexico, China, Australia and India.
The far reaching expectations for duty of care of professionals has been strikingly illustrated from the fallouts from recent major and widely publicised TSF failures such as Mt Polley (three consultant engineers accused of unprofessional conduct), the 2015 Samarco failure (22 individuals charged with various criminal offences including homicide) and the recent Brumadinho failure (charges of false representation have also been brought against the consultant engineers).
This paper examines the responsibilities and duties of engineers operating in the tailings industry with respect to the professionals’ duty of care and the consequences of breaching those responsibilities and duties. This paper also discusses the potential conflicting interests of consulting engineers and proposes that engineers are, in the vast majority, ill-prepared for navigating the changing waters of professional negligence.
The authors of this paper believe that a better understanding of the professional duty of care could reduce the number of claims for professional negligence. As a corollary, the reduced rate of professional negligence could result into fewer tailings failures in the future.
Professional industry bodies such as Engineers Australia should act to clarify the legal obligations and duties of engineers, as they are the best placed institutions to do so for the whole industry. In addition, consideration should be given to inclusion of a discussion of the aforementioned obligations and duties into relevant ANCOLD Guidelines.
Dam spillway gate collapse may have fatal consequences and cause severe structural damage due to flooding, additionally the dam owner will suffer substantial business losses. The repair work required to put a gate back in service can be time consuming, challenging, dangerous and costly. To ensure the reliability of radial gate operation, and depending on the type of trunnion bearing and the structural capacity of the gate arms, the bearing friction should be carefully monitored and gate performance evaluated to confirm the gate’s ability to withstand increases in friction over time. The frequency of monitoring requires careful consideration.
Radial gate arms are normally designed to withstand bending moments from nominal bearing friction. An inappropriate bearing, or a bearing in poor condition, might have friction sufficiently high to cause a gate arm to fail due to the excessive bending moment during gate operation.
An easy and non-invasive way of analysing the condition of the bearing, to ensure safe operation of radial gates where the arms might be prone to increased bending moment, is through friction measurement with the use of strain gauges. This paper briefly presents common radial gate design and some failure modes as a consequence of increased bearing friction, and a method of determining the bearing friction coefficient through strain gauge measurements and experience from the field is presented.
The waters that feed the Nyamwamba River in western Uganda start as meltwater from the glaciers high up in the Rwenzori Mountains. A small scale run-of-river hydropower plant, equipped with a low height tyrolean type intake weir, is now operating just upstream of the town of Kilembe, the first large community along this river. History has seen floods cause realignments of the river through the town and major damage to property and loss of life.
A devastating flood occurred during the design phase for the scheme prior to any construction commencing, which caused loss of life and significant damage to roads, bridges and buildings within the town, including the hospital. Design changes to improve resilience of all riverine connections were made, including relocation of the diversion weir to a stronghold point within the basic protection zone of a natural island. A flood diversion dyke was constructed across one of the river branches that flows around the island, with its alignment, type and height optimised to capture low flows for energy generation while deflecting large flows away from the weir to mitigate flood damage.
Another major flood arrived three months after completion. No damage was sustained which provided confidence in the resilience of the headworks. A major river dredging program contributed to the overall resilience of this reach of river through the town.
This paper describes the challenges for the development of the project site in terms of physical considerations to work with the river, adopting some lessons learned from the pre-construction floods.
Failure modes of seepage and internal erosion have been identified as one of the key issues for the
ongoing safety of dams and canals in New Zealand. Accordingly, many dams and canals have had
improvement works carried out to mitigate this issue. This paper examines the long-term performance of these measures including three case studies. It is concluded that the performance of these measures has been variable, but ongoing monitoring and periodic review has identified deterioration in performance. There are a number of technical areas where uncertainties on long-term performance may still remain, such as geotextiles in important filter functions and waterstops of various types.
Otago Regional Council (ORC) own and operate the Lower Taieri, Lower Clutha, and Alexandra Flood Protection Schemes. Collectively the schemes comprise over 220 km of earthfill levees, together with numerous appurtenant structures, such as major spillways, flood gates and pumping stations. The schemes provide flood protection to significant and varied communities and infrastructure adjacent to the Clutha and Taieri rivers, for example Dunedin Airport, and towns such as Balclutha and Outram. The works were constructed at various times since the 19th century to a range of standards, and assets are at various lifecycle stages.
Regular and systematic condition and structural integrity assessment is a key aspect of operating flood protection schemes for resilient communities. This can be challenging due to the large spatial extent of multiple schemes. Efficient and effective on-the-ground visual inspection of the entire network is key. A field assessment methodology was developed which combined on-the-ground visual assessment with innovative use of GIS technology, for field data capture, recording, analysis and presentation.
The structural assessment methodology used LiDAR-derived digital elevation models (DEMs) integrated with the field data to screen the levee networks based on geometry condition, to identify critical locations for analysis. Levee susceptibility to hazards such as overtopping scour, piping, seismic performance and slope instability was assessed utilising a semi-quantitative multi criteria analysis. Subsequent efforts were focused on critical locations enabling analysis which would not be efficient on a scheme-wide scale. An outcome included a GIS database to enable rapid future review of asset information and condition.
The assessment coincided with the July 2017 Taieri River flood – the largest event in almost forty years, and a timely reminder of the importance of flood protection infrastructure for community resilience. This event also highlighted the importance of making use of such events to field-truth assessment results and test assumptions about scheme performance and vulnerable locations.
This paper discusses the current regulatory requirements and guidelines, which address to varying degrees the need for recovery controls and the engagement of Owners with Impacted Communities (ICs) within a Dam Safety Emergency Response Plan. The planning and application of appropriate recovery controls, which are applicable from the moment of failure, help to build resilience and reduce the ultimate consequence of TSF failure. The application of such controls, developed with close engagement with impacted communities has a strong precedent, being recommended as a result of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) review of good practice for emergency preparedness (Emery, 2005).
This paper presents a simple method to assess various recovery controls, with risk minimisation as its basis, and the use of existing risk assessment techniques such as bow-tie diagrams or the inclusion of recovery controls to other qualitative assessment methods. This will be illustrated through application to some relevant historical TSF failures.